Can we get some altitude?
We are squarely in the era in which NHL teams are trying to excel by having one good top scoring line. This is true in a variety of different cities across the continent, such as Boston, Philadelphia, NJ, Dallas, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, STL, and Vegas. The formula seems simple; put your best three forwards out there for over 20 minutes per night and good things will happen…..provided the other 9 guys play the other teams’ nine guys evenly and with fewer mistakes. We suppose that in a salary cap environment this is not a bad plan, as very few teams have a solid top six.
As a result, the strategy of relative domination of your top 3 against everyone else’s top three has been especially potent over the first 12 games in Colorado…
Witness – Rantanen, McKinnon and Landeskog have combined for 55 points, including 24 goals in 12 games. The rest of the team, by contrast, has 17 goals among them. That’s top heavy. Even in Dallas, whose top 3 of Radulov, Benn and Seguin have only tallied 12 goals in 11 games is matched by another top heavy team in the Devils, also at 12 goals. So what is going on with the Avs?
Although COL is among the league leaders in taking penalty minutes, they are also 3rd in the league at killing them. This is likely due to the monsters they have on the back end, like Zadurov (wow), as well as exceptional goaltending of Varlamov at a 1.62 GAA. While it is anyone’s guess as to whether their early season success is sustainable (likely its not), we expect COL to revert to the mean a bit due to the outlying nature of the statistics mentioned above. That is not to say this is not a fine team potentially; obviously it is, when it is firing on all cylinders.
However, based on our pre-season forecast, we expect GAA to move to the mid twos for Varlamov (because hey, he might be the second coming of Brian Elliott but….. he was at 2.68 last year), for the PK to be ranked somewhere in the middle of the league (because although they were 4th overall last year in PK, they still take too many penalties for our tastes), and for the top line to score around 90-100 goals among them (not the 164 which they are on pace to do now). While these Avs are top notch, we aren’t sure Nathan McKinnon is the second coming of Mike Bossy, or even one of Paul Stasny’s uncles. But he sure is good.
How good? The top three scorers on Colorado are currently on pace to score 375 points. To put this in perspective, extrapolating an 82 game performance for The Razor et. al. 375 would be about the same the Gretzky line in 1985-86 who scored 215 points (Gretzky), Jari Kurri who added another 131 and the highest scoring left wing (Mike Krushelnyski) added 40 more (Note – Dave Semenko only had 18 points that year). Heck, even the fabled French Connection of Buffalo in the 1970s (consisting of Rene Robert, Rick Martin and Gilbert Perrault) never cracked the 300 level. So is it a stretch to think that the young guns on the Avs, (who to our knowledge do not yet have a name for their line, especially not one as groovy as the French Connection), may peak out at around 270-290? Probably not.
Before someone else usurps our copyright, we vote to call these guys them the Mile High Club. Lol. See what we did there?
Anyway, in other words, we are marveling at the fast start for the Avs. We wouldn’t be surprised however to see them come back to earth a bit in the standings because they are firing on all cylinders….at a historic pace, despite the promise of the three young guns up front. This will be an interesting team to watch, especially if they are able to find some secondary scoring and the defense continues to overwhelm their opponents due to their collective size.
Important footnote – in the spirit of fairness, we note that Sean Leahy of Yahoo had posted an article two weeks ago extolling the virtues of Mikko Rantanen. We think he did solid job at introducing a topic that we have placed our own spin on here. I guess we aren’t the only ones noticing that the Avs in 2018-19 have come to play.
The top line now has 41 G (compared to 48 for the rest of the team) and 103 points through 24 games ……..still a 352 point pace!! – but down from the 375 pace they had at Halloween. So it seems as though the production is coming down a tad, but COL is still second in points in the west. This is absolutely remarkable……so much so we have dubbed them the Mile High Club. The French Connection and Triple Crown Line were taken.